‘Who Cares About Our Neighbors In Public Housing?’

Days after Mayor Joe Ganim announced a federal application to decommission the troubled Greene Homes public housing complex, government observer John Marshall Lee raises questions about the efficiency of the agency that oversees public housing in Bridgeport. His Monday night address to the City Council follows:

Does the Life you are living these days seem good for you? Personally I am happy for you if so. I never intend to reduce your satisfaction with life one bit. Remember two weeks ago, on the Thanksgiving holiday we stopped along with family and friends, reflected on that which we had received and extended gratitude in our own way and in our own words? It is a wonderful practice. So I want to ask you …

Are there folks here in Bridgeport who are literally at their wit’s end, who are our neighbors, some of whom are especially sought after on Election Days, but whose situation is ignored, forgotten or kept hidden most days from the rest of us? American history looks back on slave times where people of color on plantations were kept with no concern for their quality of life, education or rights as human beings. These were truly poor people, poor in opportunity, acknowledgement of rights and ability to earn a fair return on their work among other things. In the late 20th Century many urban citizens of color were kept from pursuing their human rights by being sentenced to prison in ways dissimilar to punishments for drug activities meted out to neighbors in surrounding towns for similar infractions.

Has public housing today chained those in our community to a last step before homelessness for people who were neighbors at one time? How are we currently managing public housing if our primary goal is “providing a clean and safe place to call home for … children and families?” Those words are from Mayor Ganim in the past few days. He says he has “fought for the residents who have lived in these unsuitable conditions for a long time.” Has he made this priority clear to all in the past three years? The article had to do with tearing down the Greene Homes, but elevator unsuitability for tenants has been only one continuing problem throughout the properties administered by Park City Communities (PCC) Board and staff.

PCC Chairman Cowlis Andrews agrees in the assessment of problems at the Greene Homes, but no reference to what goes on at PT Barnum, Trumbull Gardens and other properties shows the problem to solely be “elevators in continuous need of repair.” Rather than spend funds on decommissioning Greene Homes and then “work towards the development of better public housing in Bridgeport,” why not do the latter work first? How many vacancies exist in each of Park City Community properties? What is the financial status of the housing authority today? Do they pay their bills on time to the WPCA and other vendors in the same manner they expect to be paid? What have the most recent Annual reports and post-inspections of properties told Bridgeport about the state of caring for the most vulnerable? Council person Castillo is liaison for this body. What has he reported in writing to you or the public? Are Section 8 tenants also HUD and PCC clients better served than those in the apartment projects? Does anyone know? Aren’t we about people first; and buildings only incidentally?

What goes on when the US Department of Justice sues Park City Communities for failure to extend reasonable accommodations to those in need? And what happens when policy, processes, and practices of PCC employees viciously target certain residents in such ways that trust in PCC is lost and homelessness seems a better alternative?? Those are questions for your serious consideration. Time will tell.

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4 comments

  1. JML, what has PPC Chairman Clowlis Andrew put in writing about problems concerning these issues and who did he informed and what were his suggestions. Mr. Andrew is a nice man but he needs to bring these problems forward. Only putting the spotlight on the problem will cause action and if nothing is done then maybe members of the board need to think about resigning, this is the next best way to bring attention to these residents who lived in such bad conditions.

  2. Sooo…what is the answer? The answer is highly problematical at the minimum. First of all, we need building to house people. Let’s imagine we de-commision the Greene apartments tomorrow. Where will those people go to? Where will they find a roof over their head,heat to keep them warm,electricity to keep lights on. The basics of living. Anything less is called being homeless. We talk about the problems but do not bring answers to the table. And these answers are extremely difficult and certainly not an overnight situation. One is looking at years of highly involved participation to return these residents(of this project or any public project) back into the mainstream,even if that mainstream is the “working Poor.”

    1. Frank,
      It is more than buildings and people in need. That might be all that would be required in other communities where those who are employed in various ways in public service believe in their purpose and generally behave in legal and respectful manners. In this City there are reported to be “haters” among the haves and have nots. They are folks who do not wish others in the community to make one step of progress towards a better life. I guess the feeling is that life is a zero sum game. If you advance, that somehow decreases me and my share of stuff. That is not what I believe, nor is it just or merciful. But certainly better oversight needs to be placed where vulnerable, young, old, disabled, or otherwise at risk populations are present. Thank you for showing some concern beyond wasting public funds.
      Actual homelessness occurs in Bridgeport and depending on the way that those in power (Park City Community personnel) leave the resident paperwork, they may have no chance to secure other housing in the community. Do you see why eviction is so feared and the power of PCC weighs in the balance when it is time to complain? Time will tell.

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